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Death certificate case deals Ohio's gay marriage ban a major legal blow

Federal judge opens the door to further challenges with his comments that the ban is unconstitutional

A week after gay marriage bans in New Mexico and Utah were struck down, a legal ruling in Ohio on Monday (23 December) may have paved the way for the end of a ban in that state as well.

Judge Timothy Black has ordered that gay marriages be recognized on Ohio death certificates. In his written opinion, he makes clear he believes the state's ban on same-sex unions is unconstitutional.

This is expected to lead to further legal challenges of Ohio's ban. Such challenges are experiencing increasing success since the US Supreme Court gutted the Defense of Marriage Act in June.

Writes Black: ' ... The question presented is whether a state can do what the federal government cannot — i.e., discriminate against same-sex couples ... simply because the majority of the voters don't like homosexuality (or at least didn't in 2004). Under the Constitution of the United States, the answer is no.'

Black had previously ruled that the marriage of Ohio residents John Arthur and Jim Obergefell be legally recognized after Black's death.

The couple went to great lengths to get married in July because Arthur was dying from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

They were forced to raise $12,700 to charter a private plane and get married in Maryland where same-sex marriage is legal. Their seven-minute ceremony took place on an airport tarmac.

Arthur died in October.

They filed the federal lawsuit claiming it was unconstitutional for Ohio to not recognize their marriage.

Black writes: ' ... Once you get married lawfully in one state, another state cannot summarily take your marriage away. ... When a state effectively terminates the marriage of a same-sex couple married in another jurisdiction, it intrudes into the realm of private marital, family, and intimate relations specifically protected by the Supreme Court.'

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